'No wine at holy communion and no touching': Coronavirus advice issued to Northamptonshire churches

Diocese of Peterborough taking temporary precautions over outbreak

Wednesday, 11th March 2020, 2:45 pm

Northamptonshire churches have been instructed not to share wine at holy communion as part of a raft of measures over the coronavirus outbreak.

The Diocese of Peterborough - which covers Northamptonshire, Peterborough and Rutland - is urging its parishioners to avoid touching and increase their levels of hygiene.

Bishop of Peterborough Donald Allister said in a statement today (Wednesday, March 11): "Pastoral care will be very important during this outbreak.

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Bishop of Peterborough Donald Allister

"Clergy and others should make sure that the needs of the lonely and the isolated are met as far as possible.

"However, if clergy or lay ministers are told to self-isolate they must do so, and if parishioners are self-isolating the clergy must not visit them, but should be in contact by phone or electronic media.

"Hospital visits should follow any advice or instructions given by hospital staff. Please pray for all those affected in any way by this outbreak."

So far five people in Northamptonshire have tested positive for coronavirus and 456 nationally, out of 27,476. Six UK patients who tested positive for Covid-19 have died.

The instructions have been described as mandatory for the clergy and churchwardens but are temporary and will be lifted 'when life returns to normal'.

Those giving out books or papers as people enter church and ministers must have hygienically clean hands, the statement says.

Greetings, giving peace and leaving should not involve touching or very close contact, with nodding, smiling and talking suggested as alternatives.

"This will be easier if people stay in their places, turning and looking around, rather than crowding into narrow spaces," Rev Allister said.

"No touching also means no laying on of hands or other touching for those receiving a blessing rather than communion.

"Words, with the sign of the cross from a short distance, must suffice."

For holy communion, the bishop says priest or minister will drink a small amount but only the bread will be offered to communicants.

Refreshments can continue to be served, but with sensible hygiene precautions, and without people crowding together too closely, the statement adds.